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The book Disgrace, by J.M. Coetzee, is written about post-apartheid South Africa. The dominance of men in a male-female relationship is very common during this time period. David is a professor who manipulates his student, Melanie and his prostitute Soraya to have sex with them. Petrus immediately becomes the dominant figure when he encounters Lucy. In these instances, the reader never sees the dominance of females as they are usually silenced. David and Petrus’s mistreatment of Lucy, Melanie, and Soraya symbolizes male power, black men gradually obtaining power, and sexual violence in post-apartheid South Africa. David’s many sexual encounters with women shows how men manipulate and use women for power. In the beginning of the book, David meets with his prostitute, Soraya, every Thursday. During these meetups, he tells her to improve or change the way she looks; “Not liking the stickiness of the makeup, he asked her to wipe it off. She obeyed, and has never worn it since (19, 20)”. This is the first time in the story, where the reader sees David’s controlling, disrespectful, and ignorant character developing. When he says this, he treats Soraya as an object and does not respect her as a person. Since Soraya obeyed him and did not talk back, it shows how women are inferior in any relationship. Another example of David manipulating women is when he tries to convince Melanie to stay at his house for the night. When she asks why he says, “Because a woman’s beauty does not belong to her alone. It is part of the bounty she brings into the world. She has a duty to share it (35)”. In this quote, it may seem like he is describing women as beautiful, but in reality he just thinks that the main purpose of women is to have sex with men. Even though she did not end up staying the night, David is still trying to control the actions of women to fulfill his sexual needs. During the early scenes of Melanie and Soraya with David, the reader sees David’s ignorance towards women. When Petrus is first introduced in the book, the author introduces the idea to the reader that black men are starting to gain power. Petrus’s ability to hire three black men to rape Lucy shows how he can manipulate Lucy to take her land, “I think I am their territory. They have marked me. They will come back for me (250)”. The plan was able to succeed because of Petrus’s natural leadership qualities, which shows him off as a strong character. It also represents how he planned the rape to make Lucy feel vulnerable enough to marry Petrus for protection. In reality, he just wants her land because it represents wealth in South Africa. As a white woman, Lucy has no choice but to marry him because she wants to feel safe in South Africa, which is a society that is mostly African American. This also shows how the superiority of white people are starting to dull as black males are thinking of new ways to become successful and independent. South Africa’s switch in racial roles shows how it is starting to change as a society. Not only do the two rape scenes symbolize male power and black men rising to power but also sexual violence in South Africa. David describes the violence that goes on, he says, “It happens every day, every hour, every minute, he tells himself, in every quarter of the country (157)”. This shows that violence happens often in mostly everywhere in post-apartheid South Africa. It happens so often that David says that anyone who escapes from violence is “lucky” (157). After David does not save her from the rape, he says to Lucy, “Her voice is now a whisper. “And I did nothing. I did not save you (249)”. This shows that no one thinks to stand up to rape because of the fear of getting involved. In addition, no one also responds to it because people see it as a normal occurrence in their society. Since David did not help Lucy, it also shows how unimportant the safety of women is. The prevalence of violence shows the dangerous setting of post-apartheid South Africa.   Throughout the book, sex symbolizes male dominance in a relationship and violence in South Africa. David controls women to show how men are supposed to be in charge in a relationship. Not only is Petrus using his male dominance to take advantage of Lucy but also shows how blacks are beginning to rise to power. When Petrus rises to power, he controls the three black men by telling them to rape Lucy and make her feel vulnerable so that she can marry Petrus and take her land. As Petrus acquires this land and power, it seems like he is a successful white male. The idea of power in South Africa and manipulation of women are the most common themes throughout the story. These ideas are important so that the reader understands what the circumstances were like in post-apartheid South Africa.

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